Gazelle
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Gazelle

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  124 ratings  ·  37 reviews
As mesmerizing as a tale from the lips of Sheherazade, Gazelle traces the story of Elizabeth, a thirteen-year-old American girl whose adolescent passion is awakened in the exotic climate of 1950s Cairo. While her mother–whose beauty and sexual prowess both frighten and fascinate Elizabeth–moves into a hotel to pursue a string of lovers, her father, a historian, loses himse...more
ebook, 208 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Anchor (first published 2003)
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Scribble Orca
Feb 15, 2013 Scribble Orca rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: If you don't like Lawrence Durrell, this is probably not your rosebud
Recommended to Scribble by: Kris

On this day one decade ago, my husband and I married in the Duesseldorf Standesamt. At that time, we were oblivious to that juncture in our future which would bring us to Egypt, where we resided in the Western Desert on the outskirts of Cairo for three years.

This book breathes sense of place in the same way as Durrell's The Alexandria Quartet evokes an Alexandria which no longer exists - the Cairo in Gazelle is a place of memories - both the author's and my own. I read Durrell's Quartet before I...more
Lynne King
When I read the final paragraph in this book, I slowly closed it and looked at the “blurb” on the back cover and also at the author’s photograph. My immediate thought was how could Rikki Ducornet possibly have had the imagination to write this sublime book?

How can I even begin to describe this stunning gem of a book? Why do I like it so much and why has it affected me the way it has? I really don’t know but what I do know is that it’s one of those serendipitous literary works that now proudly re...more
Dolors
Sep 22, 2013 Dolors rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Those in need of an exotic escapade
Recommended to Dolors by: Lynne King
Shelves: read-in-2013
“I imagined that here time was not counted in seconds, but in petals of roses. Each atom of air was scented with roses.”

With my overstimulated senses still reeling from the sensuous voluptuousness of the aphrodisiac scent emanating from these pages and my accelerated heart aching with piercing melancholy, I try to reconcile the unseen power and the darkish forces that lurk behind this exotic rarity of a tale.

Two undercurrent sinuous voices embodied in a single first person narrator, only separ...more
MJ Nicholls
Ducornet is the lovelist, most magical and dazzling writer on two legs. Her elements tetralogy is an essential entry in the American canon, her short fiction has inspired dozens of MFA pixie girls to take up their pens and write flotsammy flimflam about faires and pixies and sexy girly-poohs bitchslapping wizards. Gazelle is a more serious-faced novel from her less playful more sombre period, concerning the flowering of sexuality of Elizabeth in Egypt among a cast of fantastic characters with li...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
The below contents of this Review Box are now available in a document assemblage entitled Off-Topic: The Story of an Internet Revolt. Some words about Gazelle and/or Ducornet may be in the offing....


(view spoiler)...more
Mariel
Jan 31, 2013 Mariel rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: into the privacy of separate picklejars
Recommended to Mariel by: wrap it up in ribbons
From then on the small pleasures of daily life took on the stench- however slight- of ambiguity or worse: deviance. And although I loved Father deeply, this secret knowledge revealed what I came to think of as his weakness.


Matthew Lillard in Scream tells Neve Campbell's grieving daughter that her adulterous mother was "NO Sharon Stone!" She pays for her crimes, the poor woman. Mother, will I be pretty? Will I be rich? Thirteen year old Lizzie grave robbed her parents. Not in the traditional sens...more
Eddie Watkins
Overripe, but only in the sense that a champagne mango or a persimmon must seem overripe in order to taste their richest and sweetest. Even with a spare plotline this felt like a condensation, a rose attar, of an epic to get lost in for weeks; and though it only took me a day or so to read its potency obviated time by a relentless, though languid, saturation of moments both sensual and literary. Lovely, morbid, aromatic, and sexily escapist.
Jimmy
Yes yes yes! If books were perfumes, this one would be the perfect mix of storytelling prowess, enchantment of language, whiff of philosophy, and scent of great characters. Oh, and a dash of humor to taste. A highly potent potion, to be sure, yet none of the above elements suffers because of the others. It’s like each word in this short book is doing double or triple duty to those ends.
The gesture, like the gesture a magician makes with his wand, multiplying doves at will, seeded the city with w
...more
Mike
There is no Carter! There is no Rushdie! There is only Ducornet! Rikki Ducornet is one of my favorite under-known writers, an extraordinary fantasist. A camphor-scented bildungsroman set in 1950s Cairo, Gazelle is probably her strongest novel, it's definitely her most autobiographical, and it would be the best introduction to her work. Which, by the way, is chock full of sex. And mummies.
Pax
I read this while bored to tears selling books (or rather, NOT selling books) at a literary festival. It only just kept me awake. Beautifully written, very visual ... and nothing happens. I got about a third of the way in, and said, well let's try further in. Still beautifully written, visually evocative, and nothing happening. The most exciting character in the book (the philandering, oversexed, Icelandic Mother) is completely absent, and the narrator (daughter) spends all her time NOT thinking...more
Amanda
Yawn. I just didn't care. Very unlikable and unsympathetic characters, especially the parents who were so wrapped up in their own drama that they didn't seem to notice that they had a child. This would have been okay if the narrator herself had been interesting and intriguing, but she was instead mopey and self-involved. In other words, like the average teenager. Average teenagers don't make for good fiction. Her first person narrative moved along at a snail's crawl even though the book was 189...more
Helen
I...just cannot shake the "already seen" feeling. Yes, a lot of literature is, in fact, retelling of the same old story, but the storyteller has to add something new to intrigue the audience. This book didn't intrigue me in the least. The lone part that stirred my interest - and consequently, one of the few that remain in my memory - was the one about father being "airy", perpetually floating and distant.

I felt this book was not unlike this father - like air. Maybe the idea was to make it like p...more
Jenine
This reminded me of the Alexandria Quartet for the sensual expat memoir content. It is memories of being thirteen and the tumultuous, vivid, perverse emotional landscape there. A bit heavy on the exotique but quite a nice read. I'm reading commentary on the 1001 Nights and this ties in nicely too.
Shel
A book lush with beautiful, writhing, "wantoning" phrases about the awakening of a 13-year-old girl's sensuality in Egypt (She has a crush on a maker of exotic perfumes. When she grows up, she'll make a career out of dissecting mummies.). It creates an atmosphere of crushed rose petals and The Arabian Nights to "flood the soul with beauty," and speaks in essence of love and transformation.

Quotes:
"...the city of Cairo gave way to a forest of the mind. A forest where female animals offered themsel...more
Rae
This would be a great book to read in a bath of rose, neroli and sandalwood. It's a quick read, very sensual, a la Maguerite Duras. It's also been compared to Patrick Suskind's /Perfume/ because of it's many descriptions of scents and a perfumerie--but it's not nearly so dark. The narrator, now an anthropologist studying mummies, looks back at her thirteenth year, a year she spent in Egypt with her eccentric father, after her mother left them. The writing is often gorgeous. The voice is believab...more
Gray
The most delightful book I've read in a long time. Ducornet's language is beautiful as always; every line of this simple, yet multi-layered novel can stand by itself as a poem or a little story. After reading just a paragraph or two, I feel nourished by images, fragrances, glimpses of the Old Time in Egypt and how it continues to affect the present. A vivid portrayal of a young American woman discovering her identity and her desires in mid-20th century Cairo, amid the often-conflicting philosoph...more
Bonnie Jeanne
Bought this because the front quote compares it, in part, to Suskind's Perfume, which I really enjoyed. However, there really is any comparison, other than book stories having perfume as theme. In Gazelle it is only a small theme, though. The other book mentioned in the quote is Margarite Duras' The Lover, which I suspect is a closer comparison, though I haven't read it (I will though). [return][return]I did enjoy this story, though it is quite uneven. Some of what might be dreamy storytelling i...more
Jennifer Ready
As other reviewers have noted, Gazelle is the story of Elizabeth, a 13-year-old American girl who has been brought to Egypt because of her father's Fulbright scholarship. Her father is a professor, quiet, subdued, obsessed with things of the past, especially wars. Her mother is originally from Iceland, and is a large personality, uncontrollable by her husband and daughter. Crisis occurs when Elizabeth and her father surprise her mother during one of her affairs, after which her mother relocates...more
Venessa
"Memories accumulate within the mind like the disparate fragrances that make a perfume. Our only means of recovering the past and yet how volatile they are!"

Elizabeth, a surgeon with a unique job working with mummies, lives in Cairo following a dissolved relationship. The narrative mainly concerns the recounting of the summer when Elizabeth first lived there, as a thirteen year old girl from the United States, coming of sexual age and witnessing the disturbing crumbling of her parent's marriage....more
Sammy
Wow. Just... wow. That's not a good wow, just so you know. What was this book about? I have no idea. Really... I don't. There was no central story line really. The characters, even Elizabeth who was on every page, where see through and fleeting, intangible. There was no conflict, not even an obscure one.

The only reason I didn't give this book an F was because while even though it became a little much at times, the language was beautiful. It was beautiful, at least, when I knew what she was talki...more
Alison Looney
Here's a book with exquisite and lyrical writing that goes nowhere. Taken scene by scene, the author presents a tantalizing vision of 50's Cairo, but the scenes don't add up to anything.

A few particularly spellbinding passages revolve around a perfume maker who relies on ancient wisdom to recreate the scents of Greeks and Romans. He and his assistant must crush thousands of rose petals. Distilling the essence from rose petals - that's the best way to describe this book. Like a lovely, exotic per...more
Cate
This is my first novel by this author, and I thought it was much better than many 21st-c novels I read. The characterizations were excellent, and I enjoyed the sense of place and the narrator's voice. I had a less than enthusiastic response to the author's style--seemed to self-consciously "poetic" and a bit overdone for my taste. And I liked the "bad" mom, unlike other readers in my bookgroup. Perhaps "like" is too strong--I understood her, and I didn't judge her, or at least not any more harsh...more
Ginger
Love this book! It is wonderful. The writing takes to Cairo, Egypt with such ease. This story of a pre-teen girl who's father receives a Fullbright scholarship to Cario in the 1950s and takes his wife and daughter with him for the 1 year stint.

What started out fine, soon became awful as the marriage disintegrates and the daughter (our narrator) is left to manage, pretty much on her own. I found the depictions of her parents to be believeable and very real.

This is a writer to read more of.
Sandy
I am only on page 12 and already this is a startlingly beautiful read. It is a book I want for my own shelf. I don't want to put it down! This book is beautifully written. Ducornet's skill at description and evocing place is tremendous. The evocation of Cairo in the 50's entwined with entrancing qualities and facts about mummies and the world of ancient Egypt kept me enthralled the entire read. The mind and heart of a budding young girl is richly rendered. I highly recommend this book!
Chelsey
I thought this was an awful book. The story line was confusing to follow and it was not what I was expecting at all. There is very little actual adventure / story, it's all about what the main character is thinking. I also thought it would be better if they tied in the present time a lot more often throughout the novel instead of just once part way through when I totally forgot that the book was taking place in the past.
Catherine
I decided to give up on this book just before half way - not terrible but not a book that I was enjoying. Set in Cairo it is narrated by a teenager who is describing things around her - lots of extended descriptions of things she sees, hears and smells to the extent that it became tedious to me. Only good thing is how short it is - I got almost half way in about an hour.
John Pistelli
I wrote a long essay on this book, also touching on many other subjects (Orientalism, modernity, realism vs. romanticism, the theory of the novel, Antonio Gramsci, Edward Said, James Wood, my mother, etc.), on my main blog here:

http://johnpistelli.wordpress.com/201...
Jenny
This is a very sensual book about an American woman. The book includes both her memories of childhood experiences living in Egypt with her father and mother and her experiences studying mummies as an adult.

The book is filled with descriptions of smells, tastes and colors, bringing mid-20th Century Cairo to life.
els
i really wanted to get super into this book but sometimes over flowery language will jerk me out of the story. and even though it was in first person i felt more like the main character was observing them and herself from this far away place. didn't connect.
Trixie Fontaine
I waited to mark this as read until I could rave about everything I loved about this, but after a couple of years it's time to just give it five stars and stop pretending to be "currently reading" it.

LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!!!!
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Rikki Ducornet (born Erica DeGre, April 19, 1943 in Canton, New York) is an American postmodernist, writer, poet, and artist.

Ducornet's father was a professor of sociology, and her mother hosted community-interest programs on radio and television. Ducornet grew up on the campus of Bard College in New York, earning a B.A. in Fine Arts from the same institution in 1964. While at Bard she met Robert...more
More about Rikki Ducornet...
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